Events of 1803
Throughout 1803 (and even earlier in 1802), President Thomas Jefferson
and Captain Meriwether Lewis were planning the mission to find an uninterrupted
waterway to the Pacific, the famous "Northwest Passage."
18 January: President Thomas Jefferson asks Congress to fund
an expedition to find the "Northwest Passage" and establish
an American foothold in the Missouri Valley.
March-June: Lewis departs Washington to begin his preparations
for the journey. He travels to Harpers Ferry Armory to obtain arms,
ammunition, and other basic supplies. Then he proceeds to Lancaster
and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Jefferson had arranged for some
of America's leading scientific minds to instruct Lewis in botany and
natural history, medicine and anatomy, geology and fossils, and navigation
by the stars. While in Philadelphia, Lewis purchased additional supplies
and arranged for the Army to provide transportation for his nearly four
tons of supplies and equipment from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.
June: Lewis returns to Washington to received final instructions
from Jefferson. Lewis also receives permission to recruit William Clark
as co-captain of the expedition.
July: On the fourth, news arrives of the Louisiana Purchase.
The next day Lewis sets off on his epic journey.
July-August: Lewis is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to oversee
the construction of the keelboat. With him are seven soldiers from the
garrison in Carlisle and three prospective recruits. Lewis departs Pittsburgh
on August 31 en route to Louisville, Kentucky.
October: Lewis arrives in Louisville and then on to Clarksville,
Indiana Territory, to meet William Clark, who has already selected the
first enlisted members of expedition, the so-called "Nine Young
Men from Kentucky." Lewis, Clark, and the other members of the
party depart Clarksville on the 26th.
November-December: Lewis and Clark travel down the Ohio and
up the Mississippi toward St. Louis. En route they stop at Forts Massac
and Kaskaskia to recruit personnel and obtain supplies and intelligence
information. They establish winter quarters about 18 miles upriver from
St. Louis on the Wood River (also known as River Dubois). Camp River
Dubois is finished on Christmas Eve, 1803.